Champlain Valley Equipment keeps plowing new ground

MIDDLEBURY — Champlain Valley Equipment’s (CVE) headquarters at 453 Exchange St. in Middlebury is a honeycomb of activity, with workers buzzing around to fill the business orders that keep coming in.
Well, the beehive is about to get a little bigger, as a result of two new additions designed to help the company better manage its growth and showcase its wares.
It was in 1970 that Russell Carpenter launched CVE. He envisioned a friendly, family business catering to the equipment needs of Addison County’s thriving farm community and area homeowners.
It’s a formula that has worked well and paid off in a big way during the past 43 years. Brian Carpenter, Russell’s son, is now the president and general manager of the company.
From its humble beginnings in Middlebury with a handful of workers, CVE now employs a combined total of 84 full- and part-time workers doing business out of four locations statewide. Still headquartered in Middlebury, CVE now also operates stores in Berlin, Derby and St. Albans.
At the same time, CVE has been investing in its Middlebury location. Workers on Monday were toiling on two separate additions at the Middlebury store. A transparent (glass), 1,500-square-foot structure is being placed onto the front of the store to serve as a year-round, lighted showcase of some of CVE’s smaller equipment offerings, such as lawn tractors.
Concurrently, a 2,000-square-foot addition is being placed at the rear of the building to provide more office space and an extension of CVE’s shop. Carpenter explained the shop extension will replace an on-site lean-to that has provided storage space for some of the business’s larger equipment parts and supplies.
Carpenter said a fire in the building’s repair shop Monday will not change plans for the current expansion (see related story).
This will be the fourth time CVE will have expanded its Middlebury store since 2000.
“We’ve done it when the need was there and as we could afford it,” Carpenter said. “The town has been very good to work with, as far as the permitting process.”
Carpenter explained the office space is needed to accommodate the growing cadre of managers, bookkeepers and salespeople that are centralized at the Middlebury headquarters. He noted CVE is a capital-intensive enterprise with low margins, so leadership takes great pains to run a tight ship. CVE is a major vendor for agricultural and light industrial equipment in the greater Champlain Valley, Green Mountains, Central Vermont, Northeast Kingdom as well as the Mad River, White River and Connecticut River valleys. It carries a full range of products for agriculture, light construction and landscaping, dealing in such well-known brands as Kubota, New Holland, Case IH, Woods, Polaris, Kuhn Equipment, Stihl, Yamaha, Pequea and Farmi.
CVE’s first expansion outside of Middlebury occurred in 2005, with the acquisition of a similar business in St. Albans. Next came a new store in Derby in 2008. Early last year, CVE purchased Orleans-based Desmarais Equipment and moved that company’s inventory to the Derby store.
“We effectively doubled the size of the Derby location,” Carpenter said.
Then, on Oct. 1, 2012, CVE purchased Riverside Equipment in Berlin.
“We hadn’t anticipated purchasing two stores last year, but when you don’t grab it while you can, you might lose the opportunity,” said Carpenter, who is also a brigadier general with the Vermont National Guard.
While it’s true the number of dairy farms in Vermont has been steadily declining, Carpenter said, “There are a lot of farmers that are doing well. We have the good fortune of having a strong customer base.”
CVE had the foresight to diversify its product lines and services, Carpenter noted, and that has helped the company remain strong even during slower economic times. For example, CVE does not just sell equipment; it also sells parts and services the items it sells.
“We have also been fortunate to attract and retain good people,” he said of his employees.
Carpenter hopes the Middlebury store addition projects will be completed by February.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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